The Union don’t need to win the Cup

Photo: Paul Rudderow

I’ve followed the Union’s off-season moves and speculation alongside the always-entertaining denizens of Union Twitter.

I’ve watched the YouTube highlight reels of the new acquisitions and followed threads of speculation about the depth chart.

I don’t, however, share the sense of anxiety many Union fans seem to have about the team’s chances of competing for the top prize.

Because last season was, more or less, good enough for me.

Primarily, it was fun. And it wasn’t just fun because it was surprising. The Union played entertaining, energetic soccer that often delivered results. They held their own against or beat some league juggernauts — Atlanta United and LAFC come to mind — and showcased both acquired and local talent.

Only one team can lift MLS Cup and, though that’s a thrill, the rest of us need some reason to watch beyond that single hope. And the Union, though they have yet to bring home silverware, gave reasons to watch during most games this past season.

This kind of commitment to fielding a team that’s fun no matter where it is on the table is going to be increasingly important as the league expands. With thirty teams in the league by 2022, there’s going to be a lot of room at the bottom of the standings — one of the reasons the MLS strategy of infinite expansion is suspect. But if it’s going to happen and I want to continue to support my local footy team, I’m going to have to learn to enjoy being a fan whose team spends time in the middle or worse of that long table.

Yeah, Seattle won the cup this year. But someone wins the cup every year. What doesn’t happen every year is Ilsinho’s one-man-show against the Red Bulls. And that other comeback against the Red Bulls with the impossible from-the-touchline goal. And Brendan Aaronson pipping one past an eternally-falling Brad Guzan. Another year of moments like these is worth another year of Union fandom.

But if the Union lose another U.S. Open Cup Final… I’m going to absolutely lose my mind.


  1. Yes, in a league with ~30 teams, a lot of things need to break right to actually win the thing (few key injuries, international call ups, managing schedule oddities, etc.). What we should expect is to have an organization that displays a regular commitment to fielding a team with a realistic chance to win it all each season. I think we have that now, but obviously need to see it play out a bit longer.

    • Yeah my hope is that most years are like last year: years where the Union is capable of realistically contending for the Cup even if they aren’t the favorites.

  2. Maybe the real trophies are the friends we made along the way!

    • O captain my captain crunch is gone says:

      You’re joking right? Nice sentiment,
      Don’t get me wrong, but I don’t pay for friendships. That’s what frats and sororities are for. Family, faith and football!!!! That’s what it’s all about. Eagles, union and psu (or your college of choice)
      That’s football!!!!

  3. OneManWolfpack says:

    “But if the Union lose another U.S. Open Cup Final… I’m going to absolutely lose my mind.”
    Seriously… I’m gonna make the news 🙂

  4. I was living overseas when the Union started and kept tabs on them, but didn’t move to Philly until late in the ’11 season.
    I’ve watched avidly since and can safely say that last year was one of the most fun rides I’ve had in a Union season.
    I’d be happy if we do something similar this year.
    I’d be happier if we get to the Conference Finals – that’s about where I’m setting the bar right now as a goal for the Union.
    And I REALLY hope that Tanner rates the Open Cup! I love the tournament, and I love going to those midweek games!!! There is something about knock-out round games that ads that extra tension to the game – plus it gives me an excuse to leave work early…

  5. PhilinWilmington says:

    hear, hear!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *